Due to recurring back problems I am constantly looking at ways to reduce the weight of my photographic gear. However when using large telephoto lenses for total freedom of movement and solid support the best option has always been large gimbal heads and my choice has always been the Wimberley Version 2 Gimbal Head on a 3 series Gitzo carbon fibre tripod. This combination is still quite heavy if you have to carry it any distance and if this is the case, I will usually use my Acratech Long Lens Head on a 2 series Gitzo carbon fibre tripod which still gives me a pretty solid camera support but is not quite as user friendly.
For me at least Jobu Design with the Jobu Jr.3 Gimbal Head have solved that problem. Weighing less than half that of my Wimberley, 0.65 kilos compared to 1.4 kilos and approx. half the size it appears to tick all the boxes – but how does it perform in the field.
Having recently sold my Canon 500mm f4L IS with a view to purchasing the new 500mm f4L IS II at some future date, I have been using the Jobu Jr.3 with my Canon 1D Mk1V & 5D MkIII bodies plus 300mm f2.8L IS II and extenders on a Gitzo GT2542LS Systematic carbon fibre tripod. When used with this lens combination it is just as smooth and solid as my Wimberley and a pleasure to use. Birds in flight are easy with total freedom of movement, the swing arm and base rotation both being very smooth and when required the head will lock out to give you very steady solid support. As I presently do not have a 500mm lens I use my 300mm f2.8L IS II quite a lot with the x2 extender attached (600mm) and this combination works really well with it – so much so that I am seriously considering not replacing my 500mm lens anytime within the foreseeable future. If you visit the Jobu website you will see a list of lenses Jobu recommend for use with the Jobu Jr.3 and a list of technical information. Although Jobu only recommend you use a 500mm f4 with this head occasionally you will see that one well respected Canadian Photographer, Christoper Dodds, uses his Jobu Jr.3 with his 500mm f4 all the time. See his short review here.
I am really pleased with my Jobu Jr. 3 and when travelling where weight and size is a problem even for 500mm f4 users this head is a very useful addition to your camera gear. With the new Canon 500mm f4L IS II lens being much lighter than the old model the Jobu Jr.3 will I am sure enjoy increasing popularity. Another important point I have not mentioned is that it is almost half the price of a Wimberley and much cheaper than all of the better gimbal heads. Don’t let the price put you off this is a beautifully engineered quality product.
If you want to reduce weight and size still further the swing arm is easily removed and the head can be used as a sidekick.
The only negatives I can say about this head is that it is a little more difficult to achieve perfect balance with some lenses as the swing arm only has three positions, in my opinion this is a small price to pay for the reduced weight. Making the swing arm fully adjustable would have increased both the weight and cost and that I feel would have defeated the main objective of this head. That said if you tension the swing arm a little the perfect balance is easily achieved. Also if using a Pro camera body on some smaller lenses it can limit your vertical axis as the bottom of the body comes into contact with the base of the head. This can be overcome by moving the swing arm up to one of the other 2 positions which may in turn affect the point of balance.
To sum up I am very impressed with the Jr.3 and this together with my Acratech Long Lens Head will be the only 2 tripod heads I will be using.
In the UK Jobu heads are available from Jobu DesignUK
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